What’s Winning? “3D Printing” or “Additive Manufacturing”?

By on April 19th, 2017 in Ideas

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 A Google Trends chart for
A Google Trends chart for “Additive Manufacturing” (Red) and “3D Printing” (Blue)

In our technology space there seems to be two terms commonly used: “3D Printing” or “Additive Manufacturing”. Which one is correct? 

Some groups tend to use one term, while others use the alternative term. But is one the right term while the other is wrong? I don’t think so. 

I believe the original term is likely “Additive Manufacturing”, whereas “3D printing” emerged later. I’m told it might have been invented in the early days of the push towards consumer-oriented applications by groups looking for a term that would resonate (meaning get search hits) with the public. 

Whatever the origin, the term “3D Printing” surely did stick and is now in common use. 

At the top you can see a chart of Google Trends for search queries regarding both terms. Clearly, “3D Printing” is by far the more popular term. 

However, the chart does not differentiate between groups using the term. I strongly suspect the term “Additive Manufacturing” is more popular in the manufacturing crowd, while the public has adopted “3D Printing”. 

The terms themselves do have some connotations, however. 

The words “Additive Manufacturing” conveys professionalism, production and scale. Whereas the term “3D Printing” conveys ease of use, personal interaction and smaller scale. 

Both refer to the same technology, although this may change in the future as some higher end equipment is tending towards use for end-use part production, rather that prototyping. It’s possible the term “Additive Manufacturing” may attach itself to that mode of application, leaving the “3D Printing” term for prototyping. But who knows what will happen! 

In the meantime, either term is appropriate to describe the technology and equipment. It’s up to you to determine which one is most appropriate for your particular use. 

For us, I like 3D printing. 

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!